Posted: 06.11.19 at 17:08 by Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
A new bypass could be constructed north of the Glastonbury Festival site in Pilton to ease traffic on one of Somerset’s major freight routes.
Details have emerged of plans for a new road running north of the A361 at Pilton, which could take traffic away from the current road potentially all the way to Glastonbury itself.
Local residents have accused Mendip District Council of leaking detailed designs of the proposed routes, arguing it could impact on house prices and destroy the natural environment.
The council has said it shared initial proposals for the routes “in good faith” with local residents, and that the intended routes were “indicative” rather than set in stone.
The A361 and A39 both form part of one of the county’s major freight routes, which extends from Junction 23 of the M5 to the A36 north of Frome.
Two schemes involving improvements to these roads have been submitted to the government for funding: a new bypass around Walton and Ashcott on the A39, and improvements to the A361 at Glastonbury and Pilton to remove pinch points.
Since this submission was made in July, two possible routes for a bypass around Pilton have been suggested, both of which run to the north of the village away from the festival site.
The first, shorter route would leave the A361 at Whitstone Hill, where it meets the B3136, and sweep around to the north before rejoining the A361 between Pilton and West Pennard.
The second, longer option would begin in the same place but would stretch all the way to the A39 Wells Road, connecting near to the existing roundabout at the northern end of Glastonbury.
Mendip District Council said it had begun to hold briefings with local parish councils “in the spirit of transparency and in good faith”, giving them information about what the plans could entail.
But both ward members and local residents hit out at the proposals at a fiery cabinet meeting in Shepton Mallet on Monday (November 4).
Councillor Tom Killen – who led up economic development before the local elections in May – said it “beggars belief” the council acted in this way, claiming a number of parish councils near the planned route had been “ignored”.
He added: “In an instant, a huge amount of unnecessary distress has been caused and millions wiped off property values, with literally hundreds of properties affected.
“The routes are planned to potentially go through houses, close to listed buildings, through productive farms and several parkland, woodland and environmental sites.
“To say this has been poorly handled in an understatement.”
Tom Alexander asked whether the council had already started carrying out detailed work on the routes – including whether they could unlock future housing sites.
He queried: “What work has been carried out on the viability of these routes?
“We would like to know when we can have this information, so that by the time any public consultation takes place in mid-2020, we would have had time to prepare reports on the roads proposed.
“Does the council have plans to build new housing in the space between the new road and the A361?”
Paul Turner argued the existing road should be de-designated as a freight route, arguing improvements could be made elsewhere to allow large vehicles to make their deliveries.
He said: “We would suggest digging the road under the Lydford-on-Fosse railway bridge deeper to allow larger HGVs to get to Taunton and the A303.”
Simon Shimmin, chairman of North Wootton Parish Council, added: “It will be highly damaging to our area and other rural parts.”
If the Glastonbury and Pilton scheme is taken forward in any form by the government, Somerset County Council will take the lead on the project and will formally consult with the public.
Mendip leader Ros Wyke said: “We understand the need to address transport issues in the region, to reduce pollution, improve road safety and support sustainable movement and access.
"We also need to take into account the pressures on our rural roads. However, in tackling the bigger picture, local people must have their say as we recognise the impact road building schemes have on our communities, landscape and the environment.”
The government is expected to announce in the coming months whether these schemes will be taken forward.
If either scheme in the Mendip area is approved, construction will have to be completed by 2025, due to the way in which government funding is allocated.